bed, night stand, dresser, armoire, make-up table, desk and chair, picture frame, window, closet, mirror, bookshelf, clothes hamper, wastebasket, wall shelves, phone, lamp, computer, notepads, books, rug, curtains, shade/blinds…
female: frilly, flowery, lacy, soft, pink/purple/yellow, hearts, stuffed animals, make-up/hair products, perfume, decorative pillows, canopy bed, diary, fuzzy-topped pencils, nail polish, bracelets, bangles, earrings…
male: sports memorabilia, geometric, spartan, darker colors, rumpled bedsheets, clothes on the floor, messy, dusty, CD collection, posters of girls (beach babes, film stars, Army, Action movies), toy guns, airsoft guns, action figures…
Music blaring, murmur of TV or talking on the phone, laughter, tick of a clock, radio alarm, click of computer keys while IMing, cat or dog scratching to get in, trill of a cell phone, squeaky bed spring, whispering, outdoor sounds leaking in through…
Perfume, hairspray, nail polish, model glue, body spray, deodorant, clean linen, sweat, rotting food, bubblegum, fabric softener, dust, wet towels, a whiff of dinner cooking in the kitchen, a spicy cheese smell from an open bag…
Bubblegum, the bitter taste of hairspray, breath mints, peanut butter and jam sandwich on a plate, a banana, granola bar, sugary pop, water…
silky, clean sheets, the unwelcoming hardness of pressing the alarm button, cool, smooth desktop, fuzzy sweaters, itchy sweaters, slippery t shirts, rough Cotton jeans, cool walls, soft, sinkable bead, balling up paper, tossing it into a garbage bin…
–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.
Example 1: When I could put it off no more, I tiptoed into Great Aunt BeeBee’s room. The floor was cold and gritty, dust and crumbs and who knows what else clinging to my bare feet. My only light came from a slit between the sagging curtains at the window, the feeble brightness barely enough for me to make out anything. I crept closer, trying to not gag on the smell of sweat and sickness. On the floor beside the bed I could just make out a twisted lump of blankets, but I couldn’t get up the courage to touch it. Please don’t be dead, I thought. I strained my ears for the sound of her rusty breath, and again remembered the sickening thump that had woken me…
–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.
Example 1: (Simile) I followed on Anna’s heels, catching the bedroom door seconds before it could slam in my face. Enraged, I sucked in a deep breath and pushed the door wide. My words curdled into nothing at the mess greeting me–clothes, text books and muddy shoes lay across the floor in knotted clumps, pages from a teen magazine peppered the walls and CDs marched across the unmade bed like a ticker tape parade…
Think beyond what a character sees, and provide a sensory feast for readers
Setting is much more than just a backdrop, which is why choosing the right one and describing it well is so important. To help with this, we have expanded and integrated this thesaurus into our online library at One Stop For Writers. Each entry has been enhanced to include possible sources of conflict, people commonly found in these locales, and setting-specific notes and tips, and the collection itself has been augmented to include a whopping 230 entries—all of which have been cross-referenced with our other thesauruses for easy searchability. So if you’re interested in seeing a free sample of this powerful Setting Thesaurus, head on over and register at One Stop.
On the other hand, if you prefer your references in book form, we’ve got you covered, too. The Urban Setting Thesaurus and The Rural Setting Thesaurus are available for purchase in digital and print copies. In addition to the entries, each book contains instructional front matter to help you maximize your settings. With advice on topics like making your setting do double duty and using figurative language to bring them to life, these books offer ample information to help you maximize your settings and write them effectively.
Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.
I’m not sure if I missed it or if its somewhere else on the website, but I’m looking for descriptive ideas for explaining the noises of a house at night. Specifically those, sort of, tinkling sounds of the materials expanding and contracting with the temperature. Any thoughts or directions on this would be hugely appreciated!!! 🙂
BECCA PUGLISI says
Hi, Elizabeth. We don’t have a thesaurus for noises, but you should be able to find many house sounds by looking at the different house-related entries in The Setting Thesaurus: attic, basement, bathroom, bedroom, etc. Each entry has a SOUNDS field; by looking through those entries, you might find the sounds that you’re looking for. Best of luck!
Madelynn Dermott says
i know its a little late but descriptives for what your looking for would be EX: hrough a window I could hear the risings and fallings of a conversation being held on a porch near the corner, chatting and yapping and playing and shrieking; a car passed on the street
the creaking, the sea noises, and the night birds outside.
I was surrounded by the musty, oily, salty smell of the ship and the ocean, and realized how sharp one’s senses become in the dark. Every place has its own scent, a peculiar mixture of organic growth and human industry, of must, paint, wood and vermin.
Kimbra Wilder Gish says
I hadn’t seen these entries yet! Now I REALLY want a setting set of books…. 😀
BECCA PUGLISI says
You’re in luck, Kimbra! We’re working on the first draft of the Settings Thesaurus right now. No firm publication date yet, but we’ll place periodic updates here at the blog. You could also sign up for our free newsletter (link below), which will bring notifications about our upcoming books and other info right to your inbox :).
Angela Ackerman says
It is possible we would, but if so it would be when (and if) we put the Setting Thesaurus into a book version. 🙂 So glad this is helpful to you! 🙂
I love your blog, thank you for pointing out the little things that go unobserved but are a great importance to each and everyone of our stories!
By any chance would you be writing any of these for different time periods?
Either way, thank you for the inspiration!
Terra Chandler says
Brilliant! This could actually double, somewhat, for a hotel room (with a few minor tweeks and add ons….smell…blech). Anyways, great stuff! Thanks for the inspiration!!
Bish Denham says
Boy do I know about bedrooms! My room was ALWAYS such a total and complete mess that my dad put a sign on my door that read, “Danger Disaster Area Three Feet Deep.” It remained on my door for many years.
*Gives some warm milk to PJ*
Thanks for coming over Rachel–we’re glad you found us!
Rachel Burton says
Hey, wandered over from AW and poked around! These thesaurus posts are incredible. What a fantastic resource.
PJ Hoover says
I’m sleepy just reading it!
I like the interior design mags too. I think it’s because I have a hard time imagining the potential of a room without some visual aids. I’m currently looking into remodling my kitchen, and my head reels at all the options and choices there are! Becca must be much better at this than I (and I wish she lived closer!) because she recently did a big reno in her new home.
Gutsywriter, one of the best things about this blog (and all online writing groups) is the ability to learn together. Becca and I have had such a great experience by pairing up and working through our writing woes, it was something we wanted to share on a bigger basis.
Each time we do an entry, we learn as we go, flexing the imaginative muscle to come up with descriptions and emotional actions that feel real.
Thanks for helping us again and again in our writing. It must take you a long time to put together your postings. A lesson plan in itself. I still have your emotional thesaurus on my laptop every time I rewrite a chapter and need more show and less tell.
This detail leaped out at me :
“the unwelcoming hardness of pressing the alarm button”
Sounds like a bedroom of the rich and famous. 🙂 I love looking at pictures of bedrooms in books on decorating and interior design and imagining how I’ll decorate my bedroom some day. Maybe I’ll have one of those low tables with padded tops as well.